Level of the Month

Each month, we take a closer look at excellent Enigma levels. Excellent levels are those with the highest average user ratings and the greatest number of ratings altogether. Thus it is your vote that determines the Level of the Month. So please rate the levels you play and do not forget to submit your ratings together with your scores at the end of each month. You can find all previous Levels of the Month in our archive.

September 2007: “Tool Time” by Barry and Lori Mead

Is this familiar? You are standing in your cluttered garage, your long-serving laser-driven lathe to your right, some hot coffee standing on a small rack in a corner, a totally encrusted oxyd stone before you, waiting for an overhaul; and the only question on your mind is: “Where did I put the hammer?” Yes, it's “Tool Time”!

Level of the month
Enigma II # 97
Some records of August 2007
2:37 Stupid
3:47 Moneymaker
4:48 Ronald
6:16 ryujun
6:17 Taztunes
6:28 Johannes
7:15 Alexandros+mrduke
7:22 Mark P.
7:32 daydreamer
7:33 hdwow
7:53 Tobias
8:26 para_doks
8:27 HuB34
8:30 Alex
8:41 Django
8:43 fabian
9:08 ShadowPhrogg32642342
9:10 JuSt
9:24 Marc-Hendrik
9:30 Lukas
9:43 redsantz
10:06 shoki
10:27 Melanie
10:45 Ghatotkacha
10:48 Klaus
10:58 Tarim
11:17 Ale
11:19 Sim_Ed
11:36 Valkyrie2
12:23 Adonica
12:56 Jeffrey S
13:53 Duffy
17:09 WP319
18:23 Breezy
32:15 biotopa

As of our data from July, 13 users voted for “Tool Time”, with an average of 8.46 which establishes “Tool Time” at position 6 in our LotM-highscore, head-to-head with “Elaborate”, which lost its slight lead over “Labyrinth of Puzzles” in the last two months. And another surprise from the current ratings: After it was second to “Island Labyrinth” for two months, “The Aztec Temple” now tops the list again, with a really marginal advance: 9.17 versus 9.13!

“It was clever how most of the tools had to be made”

Unfortunately, this month only one of the three gamers we asked for a comment kindly answered our request; a fourth one was kind enough at least to answer that he had no time to answer. As it would've been too late to ask others for comments (and we're no babysitters, by the way), this month's article will be shorter than traditionally. I think they'd call it the peak of LotM we just crossed, don't you agree, Harry?

Well, Andreas, last month's LotM article about “Houdini” surely was a peak in Lotm History but isn't it a joy to write about excellent Enigma levels every single month? With or without the support of our fellow players we will still be able to pay tribute to “Tool Time” as another paragon of level designing arts. You would not disagree, Andreas? Should we surrender due to the lack of supporters like the Titanic surrendered due to the leaks supported by icebergs? And don't they say that brevity is the soul of wit? If i compare my personal record of “Houdini” to the one of “Tool Time” the latter one indeed seems rather brief. But it really takes some time to gather together all the things you need to finally succeed. Oh, just have a look at this lovely rhyme, Andreas! Don't you think i would have made a good poet?

Level of the month
“Listen, tin soldiers, once I find my can opener …”

One would think so, Harry. But I wonder how you plan to port this pretty piece of poetry to plain German? ;-) Speaking of artists, the design of “Tool Time” is quite familiar, and often seen in other levels like “Set Me Free” or “Laser Paradise”. Particularly the similarity to “Disk Royal” comes to mind. I think they'd call it “illmind-inspired design”, don't you agree, Harry?

One would think so, Andreas, but wasn't that period which you call “illmind-inspired design” two years after the publishing of “Tool Time”?. Surely you mean this mixture of st-rock1 and fl-black that gives you an uncanny sensation like walking in the abandoned castle of Dr Frankenstein, with your hair standing on end, expecting at every moment for his creature to sneak around the corner! If my investigations into this matter by assistance of my servant Grep had been carried out correctly Barry & Lori Mead had been the first to use this stone/floor-combination and so it would be fair to call this arrangement Mead-Design. Wouldn't you agree, Andreas?

I'm sure of it, Harry. And, “Tool Time” is first in yet another respect: It's our first Level of the Month, which makes wide use of hidden objects. It's not the evil kind of hiding - it's more a frame of exploration in which this feature is woven. Speaking about Frankenstein, hiding behind transformations is another wonderful aspect of this level, and surely the most wonderous to beginners. Mark picks up on this:

I thought the level was well designed in its use of items. Every single item was used in the level, and it was clever how most of the tools had to be made from other items, rather than just picked up and used.
I became quite frustrated when I was getting close to solving it. I had several attempts, each attempt ending with using the umbrella to cross the abyss in the top right corner to hit the oxyd, then racing down to the bottom of the level, arriving at the other abyss just after the umbrella wore off - only to eventually realise that there was a much simpler way that I had overlooked.
Mark Pulley

If only this laser had more power, we could blast that wall to the south, or perhaps we could build a Binford 6100 Steamhammer. Working doors into the walls would be a child's play with such a tool! Nothing beats the right tool, as Aunt Julie from Yorkshire used to say, don't you agree to that, Andreas? don't you agree, Andreas?

I don't think so, Harry. It's made of solid rock type 1. If it were type 3, it could work. But Mark surely meant another way.

“We designed a little trap, that was the centerpiece of the level”

Barry and Lori are of the lesser known authors, and I'm very happy that one of their three unique levels finally became LotM. Here's the history of “Tool Time”, as Barry sent it to us:

I am a single father and my daughter comes to visit me twice a year. When Lori visits, we like to play computer games and we were looking for a game that involved the solving of puzzles. I happend upon Enigma, when I did a google search for “Puzzle Games” and we started playing the levels.
After we had solved about 95% of the levels, we began to develop a feeling for what kind of levels we liked and what kind of levels we thought were just “a-pain-in-the-neck”. We determined that “WE” liked the puzzles that made you EXPLORE and THINK. We didn't like the puzzles that made you HURRY nearly as much.
I had worked as a Senior Electronics/Software engineer for 25 years, so the language for writing Enigma levels was not difficult for me, and my daughter Lori actually contributed most of the really devious hiding places, and sneaky puzzle attributes.
Level of the month
The Mead-Trap
One concept that we had never seen in any level before was the notion that you had to have a “pair” of tools to get back out of a trap that you knew you were walking into. We designed a little trap requiring both the “sword, and hammer” if you wanted to escape, and that was the centerpiece of the level.
We also liked that notion that the wooden block seed must be expanded under the grate to make use of it for all three of its purposes. The wooden block “1. Holds down a switch, 2. Changes the value of a coin, and 3. Makes a bridge over the abyss”.
We had also never seen anyone hide an item underneath an outer space square, where you have to plan your trajectory to recover the item.
I guess the experience from playing all of the levels in version 0.82, combined with a love of puzzles, inspired us to create this level.
Sincerely, Barry Mead & daughter Lori

We remember Manuel's “Pneumatic Delivery”, which he designed for his father. And “Tool Time” is a joint project of father and daughter. It's great to see how Enigma brings together parents and children, even without network gaming. Barry, Lori, thank you very much for this important lesson, and the great level you have shared with us!

Harry and Andreas

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